Written by: Markus Zusak
Liesel Meminger is an orphan during one of the bloodiest years recorded in world history. She and Werner, her little brother, are being transported to Munich to live with a new family when Werner dies on the train due to the hunger and the cold. On her brother’s burial she steals her first book, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Her new family and neighbors welcome her warmly, but this doesn’t mean that she has relinquished all contact with her past; in fact, she is plagued by nightmares of her brother’s death. Hans Hubermann, her foster father, teaches her to read, and gradually, she develops a strong reverence for the power of words. As the war unfolds, the Hubermanns take in the son of an old Jewish friend by the name of Max Vandenburg.
Like the title suggests, literature performs a great role in the themes of the narrative. The book explains to its audience the influence of words, including exactly how they shaped the life of our protagonist, and also how huge the part they played in the maturation of the second world war was.
The novel’s people are submerged in a constant awareness of imminent death, which in turn maintains the recognition of universal mortality. The supporting personae, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, Liesel’s adopted parents; Max, the Jew on the run; and Rudy Steiner, Liesel’s bosom friend, all depict courage and resilience in their own ways, as they struggle through the daunting perils of 1940’s Germany.
Cleverly written in Death’s point of view, this book has not only managed to catch my attention, but to keep it. Filled with firsthand information about the bloodbath that was the Holocaust, it sheds light on how life was in Nazi Germany, when Hitler’s power was at its peak and discrimination was at its gravest, through the persona’s take on the happenings relating to the big and small crusades of the characters. This novel, already tinged with romance and daring in plot, manages to have an air of realism, that at some points during the read I forgot that it’s fictional. I must say that it is so much more than just brilliant; it is revolutionary.